• By Lt. Tim McMillan

Who Tends The Garden, Once The Flowers Have Died?

Outside of all of the varying and often emotional public feelings surrounding the death of Justine Damond; one of the often forgotten pieces of the entire event is the family members and friends who are left holding nothing but memories and sadness in the wake of the loss of life.

In a vacuum outside of the passions of our own self-interest, we should always remember, no matter what the circumstances, there is always a group of people who suffer the pain of loss. The ones whose minds become echo chambers, where the memories of a loved one’s voice, torment their thoughts. The scent of a person they will never see again will suddenly overcome them and they anguished at the reminder that eventually, even the aroma of those who are departed, will fade and be gone. Every single photograph on the wall will serve a cruel monument to conversations that will never again be had.

For all of these reasons, I pray that family of Justine Damond suffering will not be prolonged any more than the lingering effects that an infinite loss already brings to bear. I pray her family is able to quickly gain some understanding and clarity as to the events that led to her death by a hand of a Minneapolis Police Officer. Because right now, the unknown must feel like a wicked oppressor, that takes delight in their pain.

Because, a person isn’t supposed to lose their life, by the hands of the very protectors they have summoned. Ultimately, we the public, perched high atop the purview of loss, can easily provide justification or condemnation for Justine’s death. However, none of us know what was in Justine’s heart like the very ones whom she shared it with. Eventually, they know that even if by some fatal misstep she unwittingly provoked her death; that in her heart, she would never have intended to harm a soul. Or maybe they are keenly aware that the Australian woman, who was a yoga and meditation instructor, secretly harbored a desire to harm the police. Therefore, their only question will be, why did she decide to make July 16th, 2017, the day to make her desires come true?

At the end of the day, I understand the necessity for the security of information in order to ensure the integrity of an investigation. However, while we all debate our own opinions, access culpability, or advocate against hasty conclusions, it is important to consider the lives of her family and what they must be going through.

Truthfully, I consider my own confusion and concern over what limited information has been available in regards to the loss of this woman's life. In truth, my initial reaction, whenever there is a fog of information surrounding the details of an event, I often go with my human instinct and do not default onto the archetypal police response.

This in no way has to do with my lack of respect or appreciation for my profession. Rather, I've never felt as if my professional role had ever become so interwoven with who I am, that I no longer was able to discern who I was without a uniform or badge. In my opinion, to lose oneself by accepting that a police officer is their entire being, causes one to become disconnected with the very public they are entrusted to protect. In addition, I never fail to acknowledge the family and friends that I have, who themselves, are not police officers. Would my badge and gun suddenly preclude me from experiencing pain in their loss? Would my uniform suddenly numb me from wondering, did they have to die?

To some degree, maybe we all put ourselves in the shoes of either the cops or the citizen in events like this. On the police side, one fears that they could be publicly condemned for being forced into the worst, by taking another’s life. On the public side, one fears that somehow they could find themselves on the receiving end as millimeter size shards of metal pierce through their soft tissue and vital organs. Worse yet, many in the public fear that it isn’t them that could meet Justine’s fate. Rather, that they may find themselves in the role of the grieving loved one.

What side we find ourselves on, when it comes to our poignant responses, is categorically dependent on which side we feel an association of kinship with. Cops overwhelmingly feel a connection to the police side, and the public understandably can envision themselves in the role of the victims. Our experiences or even our entire ethnic identity can have a significant influence over how closely we associate the likelihood of our own victimization or situational emersion.

Truthfully, whether we realize it or not, all of our responses are based out of our fear of ending up on either side. Therefore, we support or condemn, so as to give us some small semblance that we are in control of our own destiny. However, the one side that no one ever really considers, nor ever imagines themselves in, is the virtually unthinkable place of being the mortal link to those who are now gone. No one considers the thoughts, feelings, emotions, or pain… of the family; the friends; the loved ones. Because in truth, that cross is a very hard one to imagine having to bear.

When all is said and done, the family of Justine Damond is not isolated in the experience they currently enduring. Many others have felt the same way.

We are so quick to consider, the worst aspects of the people, even before their body finds itself in the ground. In our haste, to legitimize, excuse, or give understanding to one’s loss of life, we all fail to remember, no mother on this earth ever held her child as an infant and thought they would one day have to bury them and say goodbye. No, significant-other, ever whispers, "I love you" and considers someday only that memory will be all they have.

No person ever desires to have someone the love lose their life. Most importantly, no one ever longs to have to experience that loss, in front of the international stage; with billion eyes of judgment on a person they simply just yearn to just speak to again.

Ultimately, I pray that the family of Justine Damond; and I pray for all others who tragically may find themselves facing a similar a situation. I pray that they all are able to be granted the peace that only truth can bring. Because, the truth is absolute, and a firm foundation is exactly what one needs in order even try to move forward.

In amongst our personal angst with each other, we may want to consider the families of those who have become a topic of our debate. Because, even the most selfish in this world must recognize, that like the flowers at one’s gravesite, we all will eventually fall and die.

Tim McMillan is a retired police lieutenant and investigative intelligence analyst; and holds BA's in mathematics and cognitive psychology. Primarily, focusing on the Defense and Intelligence Communities, he now uses his unique background, coupled with a willingness to examine any mystery, to deliver groundbreaking investigative reporting. Tim is a contributor for The War Zone, Vice, and Popular Mechanics

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© Lieutenant Tim McMillan All Rights Reserved by The Raziel Group LLC